HIV criminalization laws are a particularly strong source of stigma. These laws, intended to protect people without HIV from those who know that they are infected, generally require HIV-positive people to disclose their HIV status to potential partners before any exposures occur. Research has shown these laws don’t work. HIV-positive people living in states with HIV criminalization laws were no more likely to disclose their status than those who lived in states without such laws. Additionally, these laws create fear and shame that work against public health measures.
Iowa has one of the harshest laws in the country, with a potential sentence of 25 years per count, and a lifetime listing on the sex offender registry. We treat no other infectious disease in this way. It is time to review Iowa’s law, which was enacted in 1998, before effective treatments could reduce the probability of transmission to nearly zero.
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